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Ex-Nawaz aide Irfan Siddiqui released on bail

Updated July 28, 2019

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Irfan Siddiqui, close aide of former PM Nawaz Sharif, speaks to the media outside Adiala jail after being released on bail. — DawnNewsTV screengrab
Irfan Siddiqui, close aide of former PM Nawaz Sharif, speaks to the media outside Adiala jail after being released on bail. — DawnNewsTV screengrab

Irfan Siddiqui, a close aide to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was released from Adiala jail on Sunday, after a magistrate granted him bail.

Siddiqui was arrested during a late Friday night raid at his residence in the federal capital for not informing police while renting out his house under the tenancy law and was shifted to the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) police station after being kept at the Ramna police station of Islamabad for some time. He was produced before a magistrate in handcuffs yesterday.

Assistant Commissioner (AC) Mehreen Baloch sent him to Adiala jail on a 14-day judicial remand, while his lawyers filed a plea for bail.

Today, she approved his bail against surety bonds of Rs20,000. His tenant Javed Iqbal, who was sent to prison along with him yesterday, was also released against surety bonds of Rs20,000.

The bail plea filed by Siddiqui's counsel was supposed to be heard on Monday. Baloch, however, commenced court over the weekend and granted Siddiqui a post-arrest bail even before his lawyers Advocate Abdul Khaliq Thind and Hafiz Munawar Iqbal reached her office. The AC's staff called his lawyers to inform them of her order.

Siddiqui's legal team then headed to Adiala jail with the magistrate's order to secure his release. Police officials led him out through another gate, seemingly to avoid the media. PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, who had arrived at Adiala jail to receive the columnist, went ahead to produce Siddiqui before the media.

Speaking to reporters after his release, Siddiqui said: "Such an incident cannot take place in a [country that has a] democratic government that is just and values democratic norms."

He said that he was busy writing late at night when the police came to arrest him. "Dozens of policemen had surrounded the house."

"I was dragged into a car and was treated like a terrorist," he lamented, adding that he will write about the incident.

Siddiqui's handcuffing 'condemnable': Asad Qaiser

National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser expressed concern over the handcuffing of Siddiqui, terming it as "condemnable".

Qaiser summoned the Inspector General of Police Islamabad to the parliament with the report of the incident.

"It is condemnable to handcuff [him] for disobeying the tenancy law," he told Interior Minsiter Ejaz Shah during a phone conversation.

"Irfan Siddiqui is a senior journalist and teacher," Asad said. "We have to respect the sanctity of knowledge and freedom of expression."

"I cannot tolerate injustice with anyone on any level," the speaker declared and said that the matter must be probed.

A police source had told Dawn on Friday that Siddiqui was arrested under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code for not informing the relevant police station about giving his house on rent.

Under this law, the deputy commissioner of Islamabad had directed all property owners to inform local police stations about the particulars of their tenants.

According to the First Information Report of the case, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, a case was registered against Siddiqui under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Pakistan Penal Code on a complaint filed by a police officer.

During the hearing yesterday, the counsel for Siddiqui contended that the house he had been suspected of renting out did not belong to Siddiqui, but that it was owned by his son Imran Siddiqui. A 'certificate of plinth verification' of the house located in Sector G-10/3 issued by the Capital Development Authority was also shared by Siddiqui's lawyers, showing that the property in question was owned by Imran Khawar Siddiqui.